News, views, notes and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  23 November 2016  •  No. 98

Processional.Now Thank We All Our God,” arr. by John Rutter, performed by The Cambridge Singers and the City of London Sinfonia.

Above: “Farm Scene” painting by Walt Curlee.

Invocation. “Of the things God has shown me,  / I can speak but a little word;  / not more than a honeybee  / can take away on its foot /  from an overflowing jar.’ —Mechthild of Magdeburg, 13th century mystic  

Call to worship. “What does it look like for us to wait for Jesus’ coming, to practice Advent? Slow down. Be attentive to pain and suffering, to the wilderness. Repentance is not about teary faces and altar calls. It’s about interrupting the world’s tendency to silence suffering.” —Brandon Wrencher, “Called to Wait,” Sojourners

Hymn of praise. “You saved me right from the start / I know in my heart / That we could survive / So let’s jump into the fire.” —D.J. Antoine, “Thank You

Three personal stories of welcoming “strangers” and creative resistance to intolerance.

        § “A cool thing that happened. I went to Panera for soup and saw a Muslim family there—dad, mama, two little boys, a grandma and another man. As I passed their table my heart tugged a little but I didn't stop. I put my things down, went back, took kind of a deep breath and said to the parents, "Excuse me, I just wanted to say that your family is beautiful and I'm so happy you are here." They literally lit up and thanked me profusely for that one sentence. I went back to my seat and a few minutes later someone said, "Excuse me, my sons have an invitation for you." It was the dad and his boys invited me to come for lunch at their restaurant. We ended up talking about their school and teachers and it was really fun and between the dad and me it was plain what a really important moment it was.
        “It's kinda braggy to tell but the thing is—I almost didn't go back, which would have been a big loss for me. For the first time in two weeks I felt joyful and hopeful and glad. I also understood so clearly that we have whatever kind of life together that we choose to have. All of which is to say—when your heart is tugging at you to say something or do something—it's probably trying to heal itself, so trust and obey.” — Facebook post by Annette Hill Briggs, Pastor of University Baptist Church, Bloomington, Indiana

        § “The air felt leaden in the hallways at West High School on the morning after Election Day. The usual clatter from the building’s 2,000 students was muffled. At lunchtime, Lujayn Hamad was in the cafeteria when she said a boy she barely knew roughly bumped into her and swore at her. ‘Go back home,’ he told Ms. Hamad, who is 15, and an American citizen, and wears a hijab.” —Julie Bosman, “At Iowa High School, Election Results Kindle Tensions and Protest.” Photo: Students protesting verbal abuse of Muslim and African American students at West High, Iowa City, Iowa, by Daniel Acker, New York Times.

§ “My uptown #1 train was covered with swastikas and "f. . k you Liberals" written in black marker. (See photo below.) After an uncomfortable silence a handsome young man asked for a marker. Someone had a yellow highlighter, not enough. My pen, too thin. A new rider got on, looked round and saw what was going on. He dug out a felt tip and that was better. A young woman shouted out, try this—it's my eyeline and bingo! Several more eyeliners came out and one by one the signs of evil were transformed to flowers and hugs. The participants were black, white, hispanic, asian, young and old. Those are my New York values! Don't leave the house without your corrective markers my friends.” —Kaleda Davis, Facebook post

Some resources for carrying out difficult conversations.

        § Creative suggestions for Thanksgiving meal table talk with people you love but can hardly abide (because of how they vote). Try asking these leading questions:

        • “Why did you vote the way you voted?”

        • “What were you hoping your vote would accomplish?”

        • “How are you feeling right now?”

        • “Is there anything we can do together?” —Jacqui Lewis, “Tools for Table Talk” (Thanks Robin.)

        § FAN Statement on Civil Discourse in Response to 2016 Presidential Election.  The good folk at Franciscan Action Network have developed the “FRANCIS Pledge.”
        • Facilitate a forum for difficult discourse and acknowledge that dialogue can lead to new insight and mutual understanding
        • Respect the dignity of all people, especially the dignity of those who hold an opposing view
        • Audit myself and utilize terms or a vocabulary of faith to unite or reconcile rather than divide conflicting positions
        • Neutralize inflamed conversations by presuming that those with whom we differ are acting in good faith
        • Collaborate with others and recognize that all human engagement is an opportunity to promote peace
        • Identify common ground such as similar values or concerns and utilize this as a foundation to build upon
        • Support efforts to clean up provocative language by calling policy makers to their sense of personal integrity.

        § “In disputes upon moral or scientific points,” Arthur Martine counseled in his 1866 guide to the art of conversation, “let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”

        § “How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently.”

Confession. Mister Rogers did not adequately prepare me for the people in my neighborhood. —from the internet

The “Doctrine of Discovery.” More background to the Standing Rock saga: When gobbling was not about turkey and dressing but land. Among the forces of historical momentum that continue playing out even today—think of the ongoing protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, North Dakota—is a little known papal bull from the 15th century serving as legal justification for European conquest of the “New World,” based on the church’s alleged “Great Commission.”

        Seem a little far-fetched factor in modern jurisprudence? Actually, no. Numerous court cases in the US have cited this “doctrine of discovery” in justifying land grabs from indigenous peoples, mostly recently in a 2005 Supreme Court case, City of Sherrill, NY vs. Oneida Nation, which reads in part:

        “Under the ‘doctrine of discovery. . .” fee title (ownership) to the lands occupied by Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the sovereign—first the discovering European nation and later the original states and the United States.” —For more see Katerina Friesen, “The Doctrine of Discovery and Watershed Conquest,” Radical Discipleship (Thanks Rose.) and “Discovery Doctrine,” Wikipedia  To read a primary source, see “The Doctrine of Discovery, 1493, issued by Pope Alexander VI.”

Remembering a massacre’s dissenters. “Every Thanksgiving weekend for the past 17 years, Arapaho and Cheyenne youth lead a 180-mile relay from the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site to Denver. The annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run opens at the site of the Sand Creek Massacre near Eads, Colorado, with a sunrise ceremony honoring some 200 Arapaho and Cheyenne people who lost their lives in the infamous massacre. This brutal assault was carried out by Colonel John Chivington on Nov. 29, 1864.”

        Ironically, on the final morning of the Healing Run, participants will gather at the grave site of US Army Captain Silas Soule who, along with another officer, Lt. Joseph Cramer, ordered their men not to take part in the massacre. —see more at Billy J. Stratton, “Remembering the US soldiers who refused orders to murder Native Americans at Sand Creek” (Thanks Cynthia.)

Words of assurance.Bright Morning Stars Are Rising,” The Wailin’s Jennys.

Can’t make this sh*t up. “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail our victory!” (followed by standing ovation and Nazi salute). —Watch this brief video of Richard B. Spencer, director of the National Policy Institute (and the one who popularized the phrase “alt-right” to describe the movement he leads for “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans” after a “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” —The Atlantic

Prayer of intercession. “Dona nobis pacem” (“Grant Us Peace”), John Brown University Cathedral Choir and Bentonville Children's Choir.

¶ “Why is it hard to say thanks? 10 reasons.

When only the blues will do—for those who endure sadness amid cheery holiday hoopla. “Melancholia,” Duke Ellington.

Preach it. “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.” Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Call to the table. “The work ahead is . . . unglamorous. It has no cowboys and no Messiahs, as much as I wish to God it did. It is the work of being-in-the-world. We must contend with, maybe even embrace, the pain and the rage and the brokenness of the world—racism and misogyny and cruelty and meaninglessness and the same hunger that makes the end of history, the great narrative “f*ck you,” such an appealing aesthetic option for people who have voted for Trump. We must look flint-eyed on brokenness without sentimentality. We must allow, even embrace, that rage, and allow it to be our own, too. And we must allow for the absence of answers for them.” —Tara Isabella Burton, “Why Grant Narratives Won’t Save Us This Time: America (and Faith) in the Time of Trump,” Sojourners

For the beauty of the earth.The Earth—A Living Creature: The Amazing NASA Video. (1:28. Thanks David.)

In the wake of the election, harassment and hate crimes targeting people because of their faith, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity are spiking nationwide. It's a crisis.
        At this dire moment, how can interfaith allies support one another? Join an important faith leader conference call on Monday, November 28th, at 1:30 PM EST, to hear stories and discuss strategies with Jewish, Muslim and Sikh leaders as their communities face hate and dire threats.
        Register here, and you can join the call by phone or listen in on your computer to a conversation featuring Aziza Hasan (New Ground: Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change), Rabbi Deborah Waxman (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College), Manjit Singh (Sikh American Defense and Legal Education Fund), Rev. Jennifer Butler (Faith in Public Life).

Altar call.A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” a Jason Mraz cover of Bob Dylan’s song, with stunning visuals and lyrics.

¶ “Gratitude is surely among the precious few, / truly-renewable energy sources available. The / hearts of both giver and receiver grow larger / in the process. Saying thanks, especially beyond / the demands of simple etiquette, is among the / most accessible violence-reduction strategies.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “On saying thanks” poem

Benediction. Visualize the vocation ahead for people of faith: Head toward the light, regardless of the wave’s threatening crest. Video (5:53) of surfer Benji Brand.

Recessional. Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D(with variations) on electric guitar by Mike Rayburn.

Right: Illustration by Len Munnik

Lectionary for Sunday next. “In the Prophet Isaiah’s vision, one day wolf and lamb, leopard and calf, cow and bear, child and viper, shall rest fearlessly in each other’s presence. And this is why we long to know God, because acquaintance with the Beloved brings health and healing to the earth.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Who are you,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 11:1-10

Just for fun.A Thanksgiving Miracle” from Saturday Night Live (3:47 video).

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Gratitude,” a litany for worship

• “Why is it hard to say thanks? 10 reasons

• “On saying thanks,” a poem

• “Advent & Christmas resources for worship,” litanies, poems, sermons and new lyrics to old hymns

• “Prince of Peace: The birth of Jesus and the purposes of God,” a collection of texts

• “New secrets, waiting to be found,” a post-election sermon.  Or watch a video of the sermon.

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